The Mothering Instinct

By Dave Hanks

There is no doubt that Fathers can be concerned for their offspring. But they canít compare to Mom and her parental concern. This is because of two hormones Ė hormones produced in quantity within the female. (A hormone is a secretion, peptide or steroid, produced by a specific tissue and transported by the blood stream to another tissue where it stimulates a reaction.) The mothering hormones involved are Luteotropic (LTH), also known as Prolactin, and Oxytocin.

Oxytocin causes uterus contractions (labor) and stimulates the production of LTH which is associated with lactation. The manual stimulus caused by the infant nursing, is stimulus for the continual production of these two hormones. Experiments have shown that even virgin females exhibit mothering traits when injected with doses of these hormones. These hormones are especially active in mammals, but birds are also recipients of their effects Ė although the lack of mammary glands prevents the production of milk, but the hormones do stimulate the parenting instinct. Most snakes and other species, that do not produce LTH, have no concern for their young and may even do them harm.

Females are easily emotional and unpredictable (hormonal effects). The cow moose or mother bear for instance can be extremely dangerous; in fact mothers with young of all species require greater caution when approaching than their male counterparts. Birds take dangerous chances to protect their young, giraffe mothers have given their lives to lions, and African elephants have attacked jeeps when sensing a treat to their babies.

Perhaps the small, cute, cuddly appearance of the young is a visual stimulus that also helps trigger the parenting response. Whatever the combination of stimuli, the mothering instinct is a very strong emotion!

(Adorable baby Mountain Goats romp under Momís watchful care)